ALTA Approves “Model” Settlement Statements

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paperworkThe more we delve into the intricacies of the new Closing Disclosure (“CD”), the more we recognize that we will not be able to disburse directly from this form when the new rules take effect later this year. A separate document will be needed to prove that receipts and disbursements match in each closing file.

Many commercial closing attorneys have developed their own buyer’s and seller’s closing statement and matching disbursement analysis forms, but many residential closing attorneys have relied primarily on the HUD-1 closing statement. In addition, some closing attorneys have voiced concern that the required treatment of title insurance premiums on the CD (showing the full cost of the loan policy despite the fact that we have a simultaneous issue rate) creates the need for a separate form that will accurately reveal the cost of title insurance.

To answer the need for new forms, the American Land Title Association (ALTA) board adopted four new model settlement statements in May:

  • ALTA Settlement Statement Combined;
  • ALTA Settlement Statement Seller;
  • ALTA Settlement Statement Borrower/Buyer; and
  • ALTA Settlement Statement Cash.

The documents may be downloaded from ALTA in Excel, Word and PDF formats. The closing software companies should also have versions in their systems.

At least one bank has addressed the use of the ALTA model settlement statements. Bank of America was asked whether it would require the use of the ALTA model forms, and it stated in a June 9 memo that it prefers the ALTA model if a closing attorney chooses to use a settlement statement to supplement the CD, but specified that the settlement statement figures must reconcile to the CD and a copy of the settlement statement must be provided to the bank. The bank also stated that all revisions to fees and costs will require bank approval and an amended CD. In other words, closing attorneys will not be allowed to revise fees and costs by simply supplementing the CD with a settlement statement.

We expect other banks may make similar statements as implementation approaches.

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Another Lender Communication to Settlement Agents…

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… And a denial from the CFPB.

newsBank of America answered several frequently asked questions from settlement agents by memo dated June 9.

Significantly, BofA indicated that agents will not be allowed to accept its title or closing orders if they are not registered with Closing Insight™. Because BofA and several other lenders will require Closing Insight™,  South Carolina closing attorneys who have not yet registered should follow this link to do so.

Asked whether BofA will require the use of ALTA model settlement statements, the bank responded that it prefers the ALTA model form if a closing attorney chooses to use a settlement statement to supplement the Closing Disclosure (“CD”), but specified that the settlement statement figures must reconcile to the CD and a copy of the settlement statement must be provided to BofA. The memo also stated that all revised fees and costs will require both bank approval and an amended CD. In other words, fees and costs cannot be revised by simply supplementing the CD with a settlement statement.

ALTA’s settlement statements are available for review and use at this link.

The memo confirmed our thinking that separate CDs will be provided to the buyer and the seller. BofA added that the buyer and seller will not sign the same form nor see the contents of the other party’s CD. Further, BofA will instruct the closing attorney to prepare and deliver the seller’s CD and to provide copies of CDs to the real estate agents.

Finally, the bank clarified its process for making post-disbursement fee modifications. If the closing attorney identifies the need for a change in the numbers reflected on the CD, the attorney must request that the “collaboration session” be reopened in Closing Insight™, and the bank will review the update made by the attorney to determine whether a revised CD is necessary. The party in possession of any excess funds will be responsible for sending the funds to the buyer/borrower, while BofA will prepare and send the revised CD to the buyer/borrower. The closing attorney will be responsible for revising and delivering the seller’s revised CD, if necessary.

cfpb-logoIn related news, on June 3, the CFPB released a fact sheet in response to “much information and mistaken commentary” surrounding perceived closing delays that will be caused by the implementation of the new rules. The CFPB denied that the new CDs will delay closings “for just about everybody.” In response to the belief that any change in the CD will cause a new 3-day review period, the CFPB clearly stated that only the following matters will trigger an additional 3- day wait:

  1. The new APR (annual percentage rate) increases by more than 1/8 of a percent for fixed-rate loans or ¼ of a percent for adjustable loans. A decrease in the APR will not require a new 3-day review if it is based on changes to interest rate or other fees.
  2. A prepayment penalty is added, making it expensive to refinance or sell.
  3. The basic loan product changes, such as a switch from fixed rate to adjustable interest rate or to a loan with interest-only payments.

The following circumstances will not require a new 3-day review, according to the fact sheet:

  1. Unexpected discoveries on a walk-through such as a broken refrigerator or a missing stove, even if they require seller credits to the buyer.
  2. Most changes to payments made at closing, including the amount of the real estate commission, taxes and utilities proration, and the amount paid into escrow.
  3. Typos found at the closing table.

The CFBP’s denial notwithstanding, we are all naturally concerned about other matters that will cause delays during the transition period, particularly the steep learning curve that must be overcome by everyone involved in closings. But we will all work hard to get through the transition period together! We’re predicting that closings will be much smoother by the beginning of 2016.

CFPB proposes TRID delay until Oct. 3

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stay tuned

Quick note to get this information out quickly: Today the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau announced that it will be issuing a proposed amendment to delay the effective date of the new mortgage disclosure rule from August 1 to October 3.

More to follow!

Donut Fridays

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Ethics Opinion gives them a thumbs up!


donutsSavvy residential dirt lawyers continue to explore innovative marketing methods. A recent Ethics Advisory Opinion (15-02) issued by the Ethics Advisory Committee of the South Carolina Bar blessed the following scenario, with a few caveats:

“Law Firm would like to pursue a practice referred to as “Donut Friday,” where an employee of Law Firm visits the Firm’s existing vendors (e.g., banks, real estate agencies, etc.) and delivers a box of donuts to these vendors. Included with the box of donuts are a dozen koozies bearing the name of Law Firm, as well as a fee sheet, a pamphlet containing information about Law Firm and its staff, and a coupon for $50.00 off Law Firm’s fee for a consultation or real estate closing. None of the marketing materials is addressed or directed to any one person, nor does the material request that existing vendors refer business to Law Firm, although the intent is to receive referrals.”

The Committee stated as a preliminary matter that the mere delivery of gifts or other marketing materials to a business generally without delivery to specific individuals does not constitute solicitation. For that reason, Rule 7.3 of the Rules of Professional Responsibility does not apply. Enclosing law firm materials in a donut box does constitute lawyer advertising, making the remainder of the advertising and communication rules (7.1, 7.2, 7.4 and 7.5) apply.

Because the donut box recipients are existing law firm vendors who refer closing business to the firm, the specific rule at play, according to the Committee, is Rule 7.2(c), which prohibits giving “anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services.”  The Committee specified that as long as the weekly donut boxes are delivered regardless of whether the lender or real estate agency had referred clients to the law firm that week, and regardless of how many, then the requisite quid pro quo for a Rule 7.2 (c) violation does not exist. The rule would be violated, however, if the delivery of donuts was contingent on the referral of business.

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The Committee said that only the donuts, koozies and coupons (not the fee sheets or pamphlets) would be considered things “of value” under Rule 7.2 because the rule contemplates value to the recipient and not cost to the sender. Finally, the Committee stated that although the Rules of Professional Conduct are “rules of reason”, the prohibition on giving “anything” of value contains no explicit de minimis exception.

Kudos to the law firm that devised this marketing ploy and received the blessing of the Ethics Advisory Committee!

BB&T Follows the Lead of Other Large Lenders

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It will produce and deliver Closing Disclosures

BB&T logo 2BB&T announced on May 26 that it will be responsible for completing and delivering borrowers’ Closing Disclosures after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) TILA-RESPA Integrated Mortgage Disclosures (TRID) rule becomes effective on August 1.

By making this announcement, BB&T joins Bank of America, Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, SunTrust and Freedom Mortgage in removing the responsibility for preparing the borrower’s settlement statement from the hands of settlement agents (closing attorneys in South Carolina). Closing attorneys will prepare the seller’s CD as well as other forms necessary for disbursement. It is clear that the borrower’s CD will not contain sufficient information for disbursement, which will continue to be the responsibility of the closing attorney.

Like the other lenders, BB&T confirmed in its announcement that it will continue to work with closing attorneys to determine the fees and other information required for the Closing Disclosure.

stay tunedBB&T also announced, like several other large lenders, that it will use the web-based portal, Closing Insight™, to gather the information and data required to complete the CD. Closing attorneys were encouraged to register with Closing Insight™ immediately.

BB&T promised to provide further communications and training to settlement agents prior to August 1.